Tina Addi drives to a local drug store in East Oakland that she helped set up the recycling and compost for. She gets there and before the welcome bell to the store stops ringing, the owner warmly thanks her, saying that his store feels cleaner now that he sorts and recycles his trash. Addi never expected that just six years after catching a federal offense for poisoning her community by selling drugs, she’d be cleaning it up as a Project Assistant at Cascadia Consulting Group.
“The crazy thing about this is, I’m not the tree-hugger type,” Addi says. “I wasn’t aware about the environment. I wasn’t aware about the environmental injustice.”
Addi was raised in Bayview-Hunters Point, a significantly marginalized area in San Francisco and, like many of her friends, started getting into trouble as early as 13-years-old. She went to county jail twice before being sent to federal prison the third time where she was sentenced to five years. But this time was different. This time, she had two daughters waiting at home for her.
After missing three-and-a-half-years of her daughters’ lives, Addi was as fed up as she could be with her life. She knew she desperately needed change, not just for herself, but for her children. She lived in a halfway house in Oakland after her release and was told she was either going to work, go to school, or volunteer, so that’s what she did. She heard about Asian Neighborhood Design, a workforce training program, through word-of-mouth and decided to go to orientation, ultimately sticking with it. There, she did Roots of Success, where she was introduced to green topics and jobs for the first time. And for the first time in years, Addi had a dream to work toward: becoming an energy auditor.
“I feel like Roots was directed toward people like me — people in underserved communities who didn’t go to college or didn’t have the background that other people have,” Addi says. “It’s our way into a field that there are job opportunities for us. That’s what drew me in, the community aspect. I learned the environmental part as I went.”
After completing the Roots program and AND, Addi was able to get a job at Environment Now where she found her newfound passion managing waste. After over two-years there, she found a similar position at Cascadia she thought she would be perfect for. The position, however, required a bachelor’s degree which she didn’t have. But after some encouragement to apply, Addi finds herself with a job she loves, improving the community she lives in.
“I think Roots gave me my passion,” Addi says. “It’s relatable. I think it’s the fact that it’s for underprivileged communities, it’s for people from backgrounds that are a bit rockier. I don’t feel like discriminated on or against for that reason, and that’s what I’m thankful to Roots for.”